MPs on ‘bugger the consequences’ banwagon

National MPs seemed to have been pressured and spooked into forcing a reversal in dealing with legal highs. Labour also jumped on the ‘bugger the consequences’ banwagon. Election year angst comes to mind.

It has been reported that National MPs forced a change to a temporary ban of all legal highs after they were “relentlessly lobbied by local mayors and community action groups”. Peter Dunne had to front the embarrassing double back flip despite still claiming that bans didn’t work up to the day before they reversal.

Legal-highs move forced by Nat MPs

The Government was forced into a u-turn over legal highs after a backlash from National MPs.

Sources say Prime Minister John Key was put under pressure at weekly caucus meetings as MPs were relentlessly lobbied by local mayors and community action groups.

A source said Key feared “a revolt” after a push by Cabinet ministers Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye and Todd McClay, who wanted the legal highs off the streets in their electorates.

Discipline within the National Party ranks is so tight that open dissent is rare. But it was a case of “to hell with the act” regardless of embarrassment about a flip-flop.

A public backlash, an outcry from local councils, and intense media scrutiny saw discord within the party grow, and threaten to boil over into the public arena.

A senior National source confirmed there was “quite a bit of angst” from within the party. “The feeling was there has to be something more we could do . . . I wouldn’t quite use revolt but I would say it was being raised continuously as an issue.”

We can only guess how much of this was due to genuine belief that a ban was the best approach and how much was due to election year panic, but it’s likely to be a mix of the two.

Dunne was reluctant to abandon his legislation, but was forced into taking a compromise proposal to Cabinet that left much of the bill intact, the source said.

This explains the contradictory statements by Dunne last week up to and including the announcement of the reversal. He has seemed very committed to the Act as passed by 119 MPs in Parliament last year.

This looks like political pragmatism under pressure of numbers more than Act pragmatism.

Dunne was in the Chatham Islands last night and could not be reached for comment.

And we can only guess at the coinciding of this news with his trip to the Chatham Islands but there is a hint of “I was made to change it” coming out here.

The National MPs who forced this have taken a big risk, although Labour has attached itself to the same ‘ban and be buggered about the consequences’ banwagon.

The effective shutting down of all legal high sales may make shop precincts look a bit better for mayors and MPs in the short term but if this turns into an openly ugly under-supported addicts’ angst there could be a backlash for MPs who jumped on the banwagon.

If their ban doesn’t work, as Dunne, the NZ Drug Foundation and many others have kept telling us, what then?

The synthetic cannabis and natural cannabis problems won’t go away by trying to sweep them underground.

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9 Comments

  1. In defence of Peter Dunne I say he was forced to announce the new changes which had been agreed to by National Two weeks ago. Also, Labour was the culprit in this forcing of hand. An announcement now means that shops will try and stockpile before the urgency in House is passed and that was what Peter didn’t want to see happening. The Highs are quite potent.

    Reply
  2. graham

     /  1st May 2014

    Peter Dunne has been an MP for thirty years. He has survived multiple Governments and Prime Ministers; he has a rock-solid seat in Ohariu; he survived the Andrea Vance scandal to be reinstated as Minister in January.

    I’m sorry but if someone with his decades of experience does not have the guts to stand up for what he claims to believe to be right, then he should not be in Parliament.

    Reply
    • Looks like power of numbers to me. One versus fifty nine is impossible odds, pragmatic politics has to play unless you want to lose the war rather than one battle.

      Reply
  3. graham

     /  1st May 2014

    Umm . he HAS lost the war. Your headline says it all – “MPs on ‘bugger the consequences’ bandwagon”.

    There is – or was – a principle at stake here, but Peter Dunne has sold out his principles by rolling over. He has lost an opportunity to make a principled stand. Maybe he was too scared of getting dumped from his portfolio, but this may well come back to bite him at the next election, as the voters see someone who is too nervous to stand up for what he believes in.

    Time will tell if he has sold out smartly or stupidly.

    Reply
    • Key rolled as well.

      Sources say Prime Minister John Key was put under pressure at weekly caucus meetings as MPs were relentlessly lobbied by local mayors and community action groups.

      A source said Key feared “a revolt” after a push by Cabinet ministers Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye and Todd McClay, who wanted the legal highs off the streets in their electorates.

      Dunne was reluctant to abandon his legislation, but was forced into taking a compromise proposal to Cabinet that left much of the bill intact, the source said.

      That’s how democratic politics works, it’s a numbers game.

      Reply
      • graham

         /  1st May 2014

        Of course it’s a numbers game, but my original point is that, even if Peter Dunne knew he couldn’t win, there was a principle at stake. Which Peter Dunne apparently lacked the courage to stand up for.

        Reply
        • I don’t know how you expect him to stand up to a 59 strong caucus. If every minister had ‘the courage to stand up’ if they didn’t get their way do you mean resign on ‘principle’? There wouldn’t be many left. Democratic government means everyone has to concede to the majority at times.

          Reply
  4. graham

     /  1st May 2014

    Standing up to a 59 strong caucus is very simple – IF you have the courage of your convictions. Whether you resign or not depends on how strongly you feel about the subject; it may be enough to simply say, “I don’t agree”. You may not get your way, but at least everybody knows how you feel and where you stand.

    It could be compared to you continuing to post at The Standard. As I understand it, you consider yourself to be “standing up” to “the bullies” there. You know that you will never win or get the better of the dozens of commenters who rag you, but I don’t see any sign of you “conceding to the majority”. You are extremely unlikely to ever “get your way” – but you stand up, nevertheless.

    Reply
  5. Zedd

     /  8th May 2014

    This is classic case of ‘knee-jerk politics’ being used to try & subdue the apparent ‘moral panic’ that has occurred over this issue. BUT the real issue is still being totally ignored: its time to SERIOUSLY look at natural cannabis law reform. Prohibition & zero-tolerance is a failure (as it was with alcohol in the ‘roaring twenties’ in America.. cause of Black-markets, Gangsters, Corrupt ‘officials’, over inflated law enforcement costs etc. etc. )
    Just ‘sweeping it under the carpet’, has gone on TOO LONG !
    The NZ Law Comm. report 2011 recommended Decriminalisation, BUT this Govt. has first regulated the WRONG drugs (synthetics) & now just added to the problem by banning them & bolstering the illegal black-market.

    Reply

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